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We Are Simply Not Ready To Talk About Schizoposting
Over the last two days, internet users have pored over the internet history of the 21-year-old gunman who opened fired on a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois. People have found photos of the young man wearing Pepe the Frog shirts, others of him dressed up like Waldo from Where’s Waldo? And sentient Applebee’s margarita Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene posted a lengthy and unhinged Twitter thread, sharing some of the bizarre photoshops the gunman had posted. Other users found his Soundcloud rap.
Amid the flurry of interest, everyone has tried to fit the Highland Park shooter into some kind of pre-existing box. Of course, for every piece of content that seemingly proves he was a MAGA troll or a dirtbag leftist, there is another that seems to show the opposite. And this of course is happening because the internet subculture the Highland Park shooter engaged with is purposefully incoherent and confusing. It is not something that fits neatly in a cable news package about online extremism, nor is it something that you could really even say is inherently radicalizing. It’s called schizoposting and it’s been around for a while. And, as I wrote at the top, we, as in America as a whole, are simply not ready to talk about it yet.
According to Know Your Meme, one of the earliest uses of the term comes from 4chan in 2016. In one of the threads Know Your Meme cites, users deploy the term to make fun of another poster sharing QAnon-style conspiracy theories. The idea being that the original poster was “schizoposting”. But the meaning quickly evolved away from that. It now more generally refers to creating memes as if you were someone who is having a mental breakdown. Typically this comes in the form of shitposting. The central joke, as it were, is kind of the main joke behind every 4chan meme: That using 4chan has made you insane.
Schizoposting is complicated. So much so that I reached out to extremism researcher Emmi Conley about how it intersects with mass violence and online radicalization. “It's nihilism. It's depression. It's extremely digital culture,” she told me. “[But] the aesthetic, not the ideology, is the thing that ties the violent actors together.”
And that aesthetic is connected to dozens of other, sometimes random and conflicting memes. But it is safe to say that it is usually fascist and accelerationist. Making things more confusing, over the last five to six years, is that the look and feel of schizoposting has changed, but it’s now at the point where I’d say, if you spend a lot of time online, you know it if you see it. There is also schizowave, which is often vaporwave or synthwave style music that is somehow aesthetically linked, as well. But if I had to point to a simple meme that captures the spirit of what I’m talking about here, I’d probably say it’s this one:
There is some evidence that schizoposting, aesthetically, might be in the process of becoming more popular, but it’s still pretty niche. The Web3 developers and fascist bloggers hanging out in the Peter Thiel and Curtis Yarvin-funded “downtown scene” in Manhattan kind of do a version of it, sort of. A group of artists that a Spike Art Magazine piece from earlier this year described as, “Substack bloggers, Soundcloud rappers, and podcasters” who “cull transient strangeness from the corners of the internet.” I also think schizoposting is tangentially connected to some of the Catholic fascist occultism happening on TikTok right now. And possibly also the recent spat of conspiracy theories about CERN and the Hadron Collider. There was also an incident this week in the r/schizopostingmemes subreddit where users started goading each other into killing and cutting up birds and making memes about it. The subreddit is now banned. It’s even possible that schizoposting is actually the dominant form of expression online at this point, in the same way that for many years every meme was a variation of TOP TEXT BOTTOM TEXT. We all seem to be becoming more fascinated with the jarring chaos of digital culture.
But please resist the urge to think that any of the things I mentioned in the paragraph above are connected in any meaningful way. They aren’t, at least not like how years of misguided reporting 4chan radicalization has led us to believe they are. Schizoposting isn’t supposed to make sense or feel unified. Nor is likely a rabbit hole that can brainwash your kid. Instead, it’s the content your already troubled kid is probably interested in.
“It's a little puzzle for you to solve. It is bread crumbs for both amateur and professional investigators to try to dig through try to solve because we all have this sickening American documentary instinct to get inside the mind of a killer and figure them out,” Conley said. “We want to be able to attribute the violence to one thing. We want to be able to say, ‘He's part of this violent subculture. He was part of this group, he had this ideology.’ That's both incorrect and exactly the kind of propaganda they were intending to produce.”
For a lot of internet users in the age cohort the Highland Park shooter was a part of the internet is a collage that is both public and private, deeply personal and utterly meaningless. A personality sandbox. It’s a hyper-real space where they can mix and match aesthetics and references and identities that don’t really mean anything individually, but, from a macro perspective, start to feel like they could mean something as a whole. We’ve all, at this point, probably had this experience, scrolling through someone’s blog or Instagram, where we start to feel some kind of vibe from that person without really digesting individual posts. That feeling is the one being hijacked and commented on by schizoposting. It’s like noise music. Cobbling together some kind of emotion through static and hiss and feedback, only schizoposts do that with deep-fried memes and Drain Gang references and alien conspiracy theories about reptiles and lofi hip hop mixtapes and violent fascist imagery.
The internet footprint of the Highland Park shooter, who confessed to the attack today and said he was considering a second one, only really tells us one thing: He was angry and drawn to violent imagery, but the truth is a lot of young people are and the majority of those young people don’t commit horrific acts of violence. And trying to divine some greater ideology or message from the shooter’s random edgy shitposts doesn’t really do anything or tell us anything other than something we should already know by now. That young people use the internet to try and express themselves, often in jarring and bizarre ways.
“I get how I get how tempting it is to want to point to [schizoposting], especially when something deeply traumatic happens. Everybody wants to the point to a threat and be like, ‘Found the threat. There it is! This is a problem that can be addressed.’ But ultimately, this one does not come down on social media platforms. This particular one is not Facebook's fault,” Conley said. “If there's going to be no intervention measures, then this entire conversation is pointless. Because at the end of the day, we can show you how every single one of these guys, their social media history — it's just a walk through the red flag factory. But if there are no non-cop solutions to that problem then what are we doing other than just staring and pointing?”
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The Whales Are Still Buying
A little crypto winter update for you. @CryptoWhale is reporting that a massive whale that already owns $40 million worth of a cryptocurrency called XRP (which has been accused of not being a crypto coin at all and also being a ponzi scheme) just bought millions of doge coin. Weird!
More troubling than that, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele bought 80 Bitcoin last week even though the country’s Bitcoin investments are down at least 57%.
Finally, my buddy Mitch pointed me towards this absolutely incredible story about the hack that brought down the largest NFT video game, Axie Infinity. It was a LinkedIn phishing scam complete with multiple rounds of fraudulent interviews for a job that did not exist. Absolutely unreal.
A Good Meme
(Click through to find out who is rising 😉)
Where Will Unedited Viral Videos Live?
I am not good at Instagram. I take ugly, blurry photos if I remember to take any at all. My stories are incomprehensible. The videos I post look like CCTV footage. My girlfriend is constantly grumbling at the bizarre decisions I make when it comes to what I post. But the truth is I’ve had the account since college and it’s one of the last places online I really archive moments of my life, no matter how poorly rendered they may be. I assume at some point in the next five years or so, the idea using social media to somewhat authentically document your life will start to feel as retro as when my dad tries to pay his electric bill with a check.
And so, the other day, I was at a newly-opened restaurant that was really suffering from new-restaurant-itis and my girlfriend ordered a gin and tonic that, to our surprise, involved the waiter lighting a pile of leaves on fire in the drink. It was a funny moment and I filmed it. The whole clip was longer than what would have fit in a single Instagram story and I briefly thought about posting it to my grid and then ultimately didn’t. But that little moment got me thinking about the broader context of Instagram’s recent decision to make Reels the default video type on the platform. Will it effectively kill the spontaneous video clip?
With Instagram adding in complex video editing tools, that really only leaves Twitter as a place where users are regularly just uploading off-the-cuff video content. Which is kind of weird to think about. Before TikTok, there were wasn’t an easy way for the average user to edit videos. Videos on the internet were largely either filmed and uploaded or edited on some kind of actual software like Premiere or Final Cut and then uploaded. Over time, certain platforms like Facebook’s Watch feed or YouTube began to algorithmically favor longer, more complex video, which meant that more and more often the video you’d see online was edited in some way.
So it all makes me wonder what happens when every social app has advanced editing features by default. On one hand, the average person can now make absolutely incredible video content from their bedroom, but it also means that we might end up with less ugly, less blurry, but maybe more authentic video clips being posted on the internet.
American Psycho, But With The TikTok Girl Voice
It’s crazy how well this works! Now I need a TikTok of Patrick Bateman narrating a video where someone meticulously organizes detergent beads in a mason jar.
An Extremely Good Reddit Post About The History Of Bananas
I love Reddit’s history subreddits. I think it’s because the moderators are really really engaged and the users are, for the most part, pretty thoughtful. And the other day I came across a VERY thoughtful user. User u/soulbarn, it turns out, is a banana expert. And their response to this very funny question about whether or not Catherine the Great ever ate a banana is fantastic. Definitely go read the whole thing.
A Very Slippy Street In Mexico City Has Gone Viral On TikTok
This might be one of the funnier videos I’ve seen this year. I had come across thanks to a fantastic Tumblr called crazy-brazilian and was desperate to know what the heck was going on here. I recognized the pink cabs sliding down the hill from Mexico City, so I reached out to my buddy Íñigo, an ace reporter who lives there, who told me the street is called Paso Florentino and when it rains it becomes super slippery. Íñigo said thinks the videos are likely from last year.
He told me that Mexican internet users love content about the “involuntary stupidity” of life. Which I would say this is absolutely accomplishes. There a bunch of different clips from Paso Florentino being shared around the web right now and it’s even caught the attention of hilariously niche Twitter account I had never heard of before called the World Bollard Association, which apparently collects content of, well, the world’s best bollards.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good tweet about the grid.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***